Tuesday, August 31, 2021

2002 Mirage - Wave 2

In 2002, the brand new sculpting style of the JvC figures debuted.  And, unsurprisingly, collectors hated it.  The lack of o-ring was just unforgivable at the time.  Hasbro, trying to save face, quickly announced that they'd be moving to an o-ring construction starting with Wave 2.  However, this meant that Wave 2 of the line would be delayed.  To both fill in the retail gap as well as appease collectors, Hasbro quickly threw together Wave 1.5.  This was a wave of repainted vintage Joes that featured two popular army builders.  Collectors accepted this bone that was thrown to them and enjoyed the wave.  Shortly thereafter, Wave 2 appeared.  Again, Hasbro had tossed two collector themed backs into the case assortment.  Along with newly sculpted JvC figures, there was a repainted Alley Viper/Big Ben and Viper/Mirage pack.  While only 1 per case, each figure was available in ample quantities for collectors of the age to get their fill.  Of course, the focus was on the army builders.  And, collectors tended to ignore and even loathe the Big Ben and Mirage figures.  But, once again, Hasbro had thrown a couple of underappreciated gems into the line.  And, the 2002 Mirage from Wave 2 is one of the better repaints of the 2000's.

In the summer of 1986, I moved all my toys out of my room and into our basement.  My parents weren't big on air conditioning and the basement was much cooler in the hot summer months.  Here, I created the first aspects of a larger Joe world.  When I moved my toys back up to my room in the fall, I had a very different approach to the Joe vs. Cobra conflict.  Among the new additions to my world were "commandos".  Essentially, these were nameless, faceless cannon fodder minions of the Joe team.  The named Joes were "warriors" who were excellent at their jobs and rarely died.  Commandos, though, ranged from semi-competent to outright terrible in their performance.  Thousands upon thousands of them perished against Cobra.  Who, now equipped against a more equal adversary, was far more effective.  The problem, though, was which figure to use as this army builder?

At first, I put together a lame kitbash of unloved parts leftover from broken figures.  These guys were terrible and died often.  I didn't want to make any of my good Joe figures these army builders as I liked all of my characters.  Flash and Grand Slam would be appropriated for the army builders of a 3rd faction who aligned with Joes.  And, eventually, I made the 1983 Ace a "Special Missions Commando" and the Mission to Brazil set figures followed as "Special Forces Commandos" (Leatherneck), "Diver Commandos" (Wet Suit) and Science Officers (Mainframe).  Years later, I even made the 1994 Shipwreck a "Special Commission Commando" who was a group of soldiers just below the Joes who would, eventually, see promotion into the Joe ranks.  But, for the basic commando, I was still stymied.

As my collection grew in the late 1990's, I tried various figures as this basic trooper.  But, none would stick.  Finally, in 2000, the blue Dusty with red beret became my default Commando.  It was a figure that didn't really work as Dusty, but was amazingly cool.  And, it was easy and cheap to army build.  The main issue with that figure, though, is that he had no armor and was relatively unadorned with gear.  In 2002, though, the first Mirage repaint was released.  This figure looked like someone that I could use as my commando character.  He was well colored, was covered in gear and armor and had a decent weapon.  Plus, he was packed with a Viper so I'd definitely end up with a few of them.  And, within a few weeks of me starting up a small squad, Mirage became my default Commando figure.  When this more olive version was released in the fall, he just joined the ranks as a different coloring of the same character.  And, to this day, Mirage figure represent army builders in my collection.  They are more advanced than "greenshirts".  But, still find themselves getting wasted by Cobras at various junctions.

In the early 2000's, Mega Marines were not a popular subset of the Joe brand.  There were some collectors (like me!) who advocated that the molds were excellent and would prime candidates for a repaint.  But, we were a minority.  Someone at Hasbro, though, agreed that Mega Marines had some potential.  Aside from Mirage, we'd eventually see the Mega Viper, Monster Blaster APC, Gung Ho, most of Clutch and even parts of Blast Off in the repaint era.  Only the Cyber Viper and the larger sized monsters did not see any type of re-release.  No other subset of figures got as much attention as Mega Marines did.  Yet, it still feels that the subset didn't live up to its potential.  Mirage certainly did.  But, it still seems as if all the figures could be repainted again without being too redundant.  But, as a whole, collectors rejected the Mega Marines repaints and didn't find them as compelling as excellent molds redone in more muted colors should have been.  It was probably too soon.  And, if Hasbro had released the Mirage repaints in 2018 instead of 2002, they'd have been much more popular.

Mirage's paint scheme is actually pretty good.  His legs are the same green as the torso from the Wave 1.5 figure.  So, you can kitbash a few different combos of Mirage figures together to make different sets of army builders.  He has a G.I. Joe tampo on his right shoulder.  I'm not a huge fan of this.  But, the logo is crisp and shows how far paint masks had come by 2002.  The torso is olive.  But, being offset by the brighter green and silver makes the common color less noticable.  Mirage's head features the clear goggles.  While there's still many details left unpainted on the figures (grenades, ammo, wires and hoses, etc.), it's got enough details to showcase the mold's quality.

Mirage's gear is kind of generic.  But, he has a few weapons that help detract from the blandness of it all.  It seems that Hasbro lost the molds to the weapons trees that were endemic to the 1993 and 1994 figures.  And, while the trees were reused a lot, Mirage's gear was less often seen and seemed to fit well with him.  But, fortunately, the 1992 General Hawk rifle is also a very nice fit for the mold.  The Big Ben rifle is a tougher sell.  It is definitely Big Ben's.  So, seeing it with other figures is less impressive.  And, it was ended so overused by Hasbro that it lost any of it's wow! factor.  The knife is fine.  Some people will give to the Viper instead of Mirage, though.  So, it's up for debate if the figure is complete without it or not.  The most noteworthy factor about these weapons, though, is that they are a unique graphite color.  There is a sheen to them not seen in other gear.  And, this coloring is specific to this version of Mirage.  So, when looking for a complete figure, be sure to ensure that the rifles and knife are the correct color and not the silver and black versions which were released with several different figures during this era.

Today, this Mirage remains in his original role.  I pull him out occasionally for photo shoots.  But, usually, he's in the background, supporting the main subjects of the photo.  I have him on standby, though, and available for when the situation calls for his presence.  My kids actually found a few of this figure sitting out a couple of years ago.  They played with them for a few days.  But, they managed to break the crotch on one of the figures.  This is a rarity for the 2000's era softer plastic.  But, they figured out how to do it.  Their handling of the figure also showcased the fragility of the o-ring design.  They handle modern Star Wars and Spinmaster Batman figures with no breakage.  But, even Joes designed for more flexibility didn't withstand their play.  So, there's an upside to some of the modern designs.  

Mirage was overused by Hasbro.  After his vintage release in 1993, the first repaint in Wave 1.5 debuted around May of 2002.  This Wave 2 version followed in the early Fall.  In 2003, Hasbro released another Mirage with the Hoverstrike vehicle.  This awful toy featured the best Mirage who incorporates colors from the other figures and features yellow goggles that were omitted from the Wave 1.5 figure.  Then, in 2005, Hasbro dropped Mirage into the Winter Operations set.  On the surface, Mirage seemed an odd choice.  But, the actual figure was made clear to showcase Mirage's purported abilities that match his codename.  As something different, the Winter Ops figure is pretty strong.  But, 4 releases in 4 years was a bit much and collectors never wanted to see Mirage again.  I'll argue that Mirage never had a bad version of him released, though, so collectors have a lot of fun stuff to find for the character.

In this age of stupid G.I. Joe prices, Mirage remains a hold out.  Even with a highly popular Viper repaint, you can buy carded figures for under $25.  Dealers will sell mint and complete with filecard figures in the $8-$12 range.  But, if you can find one left to the open market, it will go for half that price.  Be wary as this Mirage includes Graphite colored accessories that were exclusive to the Wave 2 figures and not the more common silver version of the 1992 General Hawk rifle.  But, as the price of this figure remains low, there's no reason for anyone to be missing him in their collection.  Had this figure been released in 2019, he'd be hugely in demand with massive aftermarket spikes.  But, the collectors of 2002 weren't quite ready to admit that later Joe molds and characters had merit.  So, we can be grateful that we got figures like Mirage while also lament that other figures weren't popular enough to warrant an updated repaint.

2002 Mirage, Mega Marines, Wave 2, Palitoy, Action Force, European Exclusive, Shadowtrak, Red Shadows, Cobra Trooper, Black Major

2002 Mirage, Mega Marines, Wave 2

2002 Mirage, Mega Marines, Wave 2

Saturday, August 28, 2021

1994 Windchill - Around the Web

The Blockbuster was one of the last big toys I ever found at retail in the '90's.  As I had quit buying Joes in 1988, the Windchill figure included with it were new to me.  So, Windchill became a huge part of my very small collection that I had at the time.  All these years later, he still holds a sentimental spot just due to the prominence he gained during that time.  There's unsurprisingly little content on him out there.  But, he's a fun repaint the Blockbuster is a toy every collector should own.  Here's the little on the 1994 Windchill from around the web.

Windchill Profile

1994 Windchill, Blockbuster, 1993 Mail Away Snow Serpent

1994 Windchill, Blockbuster, 1994 Snowstorm, Battle Corps

1994 Windchill, Blockbuster, 1993 Snowstorm, Battle Corps

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

2018 Skullbuster - Red Laser's Army

Red Laser's Army is no more.  But, in just a couple of years, they gave us a large number of figures.  Some were great.  Some were not.  Some were just out and out bizarre.  But, they offered a different approach to factory custom figures that I appreciated, even if I didn't like some of the designs.  While I tackled a large number of the figures I really like here, I haven't really looked at the middle tier of Red Laser Army releases.  In here are a bunch of good, but sometimes forgettable figures.  During the release window, Red Laser released all his figures at once.  As such, it was easy for some releases who used similar parts and paint applications as the standout figures to fall by the wayside.  Such is the case with the Skullbuster release from 2018.  This is a perfectly strong figure.  But, it's also somewhat bland and disappears into the drawer filled with other 2018 factory customs.  But, it deserves another look.

The Skullbuster character debuted in 2002 in the JvC era.  He was a repainted Range Viper done up in purple and designed to be a Skeletor homage.  Honestly, the purple gave him character and made him one of the better releases of the repaint era.  It was great of Red Laser to resurrect the character and give him another look using parts from the first few years of the Joe line.  Rather than keep the purple motif, though, this new Skullbuster was given a base of grey with black highlights.  While this choice stripped the figure of the panache that drove the value of his original release, it also allowed this character to be used with standard Cobra equipment and figures that match his construction style. 

As a character, there isn't much to Skullbuster.  He has appeared in a few 2000 and later items.  But, for the most part, he's a character that doesn't offer too much.  For me, the character's introduction in the Mardi Gras color scheme defines him.  So, it's difficult to see the same character in this grey figure with 1983 construction.  I've talked in other profiles about the early Cobra leaders that, eventually, all had to be killed by Cobra Commander.  Having Skullbuster be one of the rare ones who survived to later years would help Cobra continue to recruit new commanders.  His being relegated to the Range Vipers was a way to show that loyalty could be rewarded without putting him too front and center into Cobra's operations.  

But, I don't like that approach.  Instead, I see this Skullbuster as a freelancer that Cobra used from time to time.  He was not in the 1978-1983 timeframe, but more from 1982-1986 or so.  Here, he worked with Cobra much like Firefly or Major Bludd.  But, he just did various jobs for them.  He was a mercenary and not a tactician or strategist.  So, if Cobra Commander needed to move plans for a missile system out of the country, he could count on Skullbuster.  If he wanted to plot a coup in a third world country, Skullbuster would not be part of the plans.  But, this helps explain Skullbuster's survival.  He later joined Cobra in a more combat oriented capacity as he wanted the stability and Cobra could offer him safe harbor on Cobra Island.  In this way, Skullbuster's lesser rank makes more sense since he earned it through tenure.  He's not a great leader.  But, is a great fighter.  And, the Commander rewarded him accordingly with the Range Viper command. 

Skullbuster's parts combo used common Red Laser pieces of the time.  One drawback of Red Laser's big bang approach to figure releases is that the reuse of parts was very noticeable.  At the time of his release, Skullbuster joined several other figures with a black and grey color scheme.  Some had cammo pants that were nearly identical to Skullbuster's.  Asa Negra featured a skull face logo (done in gold with a red visor) on a body that also used grey as a base.  In addition to all these new characters, Topson was also released at the time and he also featured the grey cammo scheme that exists on Skullbuster's lower half.  You see the same parts and colors used over and over again.  The ostensible purpose was to make matching teams.  The real reason was to use the same color plastic and paints to cut costs.  But, all together, the mass release helped to obscure Skullbuster.

It's likely that Skullbuster would have been more popular had he been released 6 to 8 months after Shadowtracker and not with the other grey and black figures.  But, after a few years, the proximity of the releases gives me a chance to go back and review items like Skullbuster that I missed.  The figure uses the head and legs from Snake Eyes with arms and chest from Rock and Roll.  The waist is a standard piece based on the classic 1983 waist.  The parts combo works well together.  And, the figure is accented by dark grey cammo on the pants as well as silver bullets on Skullbuster's chest and a silver bomb on his left leg.  In all, the presentation is strong.  Grey bases are not common on in the vintage Joe line.  The Stinger Driver being an early example helps set this figure in that timeframe and allows for his use with vehicles of that era, too.  Skullbuster is, easily, the best Red Laser figure using the grey and black theme and he works far better with other Joe figures than most of the others.

The Red Laser introduced some new additions to his accessory complement in 2018.  But, they also continued the tradition of being relatively light.  The lack of packs and helmets hurt a lot of figures.  But, the overall accessory allotment was fine for a $12 figure.  Skullbuster included a grey pistol that originated with the 1986 Lifeline and a grey rocket launcher.  I'm not sure if this is a replica of a Joe accessory (Horrorshow) or a Marauder, Inc. design.  It's very nice, though.  I've always hated the Lifeline pistol.  It's too big and too thin.  I'd have much rather gotten a 1986 General Hawk pistol or a Chuckles gun.  But, I suspect that the influence of the "anti-repo" crowd influenced this decision as they hold large numbers of Hawk and Chuckles weapons that are valuable on the market while Lifeline weapons are not.  I'm not big on the rocket launcher for this character and prefer either a grey M-60 to match the bullets, a grey Stalker M-32 or a grey Mac-11 from Mutt.  I would have liked a pack with Skullbuster with shells to make the rocket launcher more viable.  And, a helmet would have differentiated the skull print on his face.  But, grey helmets exist that can be given to the figure.  The upside is that the figure's color scheme works with many of the Battle Gear weapons that Hasbro released.  But, this is most likely coincidence rather than part of the design.

The quality on Skullbuster is very high.  The figure has tight paint masks (which is instrumental on a figure with black and silver highlights) and good colors.  The joints of the figure are tight and allow it to hold poses.  They are not too tight to hinder movement and posing, though.  The hands on the 2018 Red Laser figures are much better able to hold weapons.  This is a huge upgrade over the 2017 set.  And, it makes the 2018 releases seem closer to vintage Joes.  There are no gaps in the figure's parts and the mold is solid.  In short, this figure is about as close to a vintage Joe figure as we've seen from factory custom makers.  As with all factory customs, though, there are duds out there and it's possible that others may have different quality.  But, Skullbuster is tight and that just makes him that much better to have around.

Pricing on this figure is tough.  It was not one of the most popular releases when it debuted.  But, it wasn't one of the least popular, either.  With a little looking, you should be able to find one in the $20-$25 range.  But, dealers will charge a lot more.  So, be patient and don't give in to gougers.  At the $12 introductory price, this figure was a good deal.  At double that, I'm not sure I'd indulge in his acquisition.  Shadowtracker is a much better representation of the skull face paint.  And, there are better uses of the Rock and Roll chest, too.  But, Skullbuster does fit nicely with some other Red Laser Cobras.  And, he's a good match for Hiss Tanks and Stingers, as well.  There's value in that, especially if you want to have a large force of figures using the same construction style.

2018 Red Laser's Army Skullbuster, Cobra Vehicle Drivers, Cobra Trooper C, 2020 Wal Mart Retro Hiss Tank

2018 Red Laser Army Skullbuster, 2002 Mirage

Saturday, August 21, 2021

1987 Cobra La Royal Guard - Around The Web

 In my great Joe purge, I got rid of pretty much anything that wasn't important to me.  But, somehow, this 1987 Royal Guard from the Cobra La set survived.  I'm not sure if I kept him since I had the antennae.  Or, if it was just dumb luck that he was left behind.  Either way, I'm glad he stayed in my collection as, now, he's stupidly expensive and I'd never spend the going rate to get a complete version.  There's tons of amazing content on this figure available.  Scroll through the links and you'll see some great work by Joe photographers.

1987 Royal Guard Profile

1987 Royal Guard at Nekoman's Viper Pit

1987 Royal Guard by Purple Cobra 75

1987 Royal Guard by primordial_earth_84

1987 Royal Guard by ironman3719

1987 Royal Guard by Dok Sewage

1987 Royal Guard by yotothejoe

1987 Royal Guard by Night Force Tunnel Rat

1987 Royal Guard by robstoycollection

1987 Royal Guard by lightscameraactionfigures

1987 Guard by misanthropic_git

1987 Royal Guard by Nekoman

1987 Royal Guard by Special Mission Force

1987 Royal Guard by Purple Cobra 75

1987 Royal Guard by discovolante

1987 Royal Guard by SteelBrigade

1987 Royal Guard by Dr. Modulok

1987 Royal Guard by hanover_h.a.v.o.c.

1987 Royal Guard by giannis_toys_dios

1987 Royal Guard by Purple Cobra 75

1987 Royal Guard by chris porostosky

1987 Royal Guard by strikeforce_codename

1987 Royal Guard by golden_cobra_79

1987 Royal Guard by gijoe_80s_kid

1987 Royal Guard by thedustinmccoy

1987 Royal Guard, Cobra La, Sea Slug, Techno Viper

1987 Royal Guard, Cobra La, Sea Slug, Techno Viper

1987 Royal Guard, Cobra La, Sea Slug, Techno Viper

1987 Royal Guard, Cobra La

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Something, Something...Cobra Flying Scorpion

So, I had plans for a new profile today.  But, work got busy, the kids started school and suddenly, it's late on Monday night and I have nothing ready to go.  I wanted to showcase a figure that ties into the Brazilian Flying Scorpion figure, though.  You see, it was 20 years ago this week that I first profiled that figure.  At the time, he was known to about two dozen collectors who got into obscure foreign figures.  Now, he's an essential part of many collections.  So, instead of showing off some other obscure release, I'll take another shallow dive on the Brazilian Flying Scorpion figure.

I've had the figure out, recently.  Partly because this anniversary was coming.  But, also because Black Major and Zica Toys have both released figures in color schemes that complement the Flying Scorpion figure.  The Riot Commandos are a bit darker than Escorpiao Voador.  But, they still work nicely as his personal troops.  The Black Major figures are a bit lighter.  But, again, they work well enough with the figure and give him some complementary figures with whom he can be posed.

You will note in the 2nd photo below how I have the figures posed.  Ignore the fact that they are on a box on top of a shelf.  I took that photo in August of 2001.  We've come a long way since then.  But, you can clearly see my Cobra hierarchy and how my version of Cobra split into various factions.  (RTG at the Attica Gazette recently reminded me of these old photos.  And, it's interesting to see how things have changed in 20 years.)  The Sea Slug is not the figure who represents the new Cobra any longer.  I've taken on various versions of Cobra Commander for him.  The Decimator is now an army builder instead of a character.  And, many of the generals standing behind the Flying Scorpion are dead or have moved on.  It's a testament that my collection keeps evolving over the years.  But, it's fun to look back at how I used to see things.

What I like about this figure is that he's different.  Right away, you can spot the figure as a Cobra.  But, he doesn't mix with the figures from whom he draws his parts.  Escorpiao Voador posed next to Cesspool is perfectly fine because the figures are so different.  The colors are relatively unique to the character.  And, the Flying Scorpion remains the only vintage Cobra who is not white.  

What I don't like about this figure is that carded versions will run you hundreds of dollars and loose, mint and complete figures will run $250 or more.  That sucks as it prevents many collectors from experiencing the fun of a new Cobra villain.  There are anniversary style convention figures of the character.  But, the lack the charm and subtlety of the original.  Sadly, the days of cheap and available Brazilian figures are behind us.  Two decades ago, I paid $30 for a MOC figure.  At that price, I opened it.  No one would ever do that now due to the value.  But, that keeps some collectors from being able to enjoy the figure as the toy he was meant to be instead of the collectible he has become.

In total, the past 20 years have seen international Joes change from a niche area of collecting into something that pretty much every collector enjoys.  Foreign Joes are so ubiquitous that most people have a few, even if they are just Funskool.  But, seeing modern collectors thinking that all foreign figures have always been hard to find is tough.  There was a time when Brazilian figures like the Patrulha Do Ar figures were available and affordable.  Dealers used to sit on tons of carded Estrela figures that would go unsold for $20 each.  Of course, those are gone, now.  But, old timers remember how much more available figures like this used to be.  They might not have been common.  But, few were worth spending triple digits to acquire.

So, maybe I'll be more prepared next week and have a profile to go.  I have a bunch of them saved for after Labor Day that will take us into the holidays.  Some have tangential relations to the Flying Scorpion, too.  Until then, thanks for stopping by!

Cobra Flying Scorpion, Escorpiao Voador, Patrulha Do Ar, Sky Patrol, Brazil, Estrela, RIOT Commando, Zica Toys, Eagle Force, Palitoy, Shadowtrak, Red Shadows

Cobra Flying Scorpion, Escorpiao Voador, Patrulha Do Ar, Sky Patrol, Brazil, Estrela, Destro, Metal Head, Decimator, Sea Slug, Cobra Trooper, Major Bludd

Cobra Flying Scorpion, Escorpiao Voador, Patrulha Do Ar, Sky Patrol, Brazil, Estrela, 1983 Hiss Tank, Hiss Driver, 1997 Alley Viper

Cobra Flying Scorpion, Escorpiao Voador, Patrulha Do Ar, Sky Patrol, Brazil, Estrela, 1986 BAT, Battle Android Trooper

Cobra Flying Scorpion, Escorpiao Voador, Patrulha Do Ar, Sky Patrol, Brazil, Estrela, 1986 BAT, Battle Android Trooper, 2021 Black Major Air Viper Cobra Commander

Saturday, August 14, 2021

1993 Mace - Random Photos Of The Day

So, I actually like the Mace figure.  I found my first one for a whopping $3.44 at a K-Mart in Bloomington, Indiana in 1995.  Sure, the helmet mounted missile launcher was dumb.  But, the figure had some promise and even looked decent with his helmet on...sans launcher.  I just learned in January of 2021 that Mace was sculpted with a man-bun.  Check it out on the back of his head.  You can see that it was intentional on the artwork for the Shark 9000.  

There's just a couple photos.  And, mostly it was show off Mace's stylish hair cut.  

1993 Mace, DEF, 1991 Ozone, Eco Warriors, 2017 Black Major Inferno Alley Viper

1993 Mace, DEF, Battle Corps, Bulletproof, Long Arm, 2002 Headman

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

2005 Comic Pack Stalker

The Comic Packs were an ingenious idea.  They were a cheap way to sell kids a lot of toys with a built in story.  But, more importantly, they were a way to get collectors some figures that they had been clamoring for since the beginning of the internet.  Sadly, though, the promise of the Comic Packs was wasted with poor figure choices.  The most damning release in the first few packs, though, was the reuse of Stalker in the first wave of 2005 packs while the first use of him was still collecting dust on pegs around the country.

Hasbro was clear that the Oktober Guard wave of Comic Packs saw a truncated production run.  For about a month in the spring of 2005, you could easily find them.  Then, they were gone.  Usually, when this happened, more would show up a few months later.  But, that didn't happen with the Oktober Guard packs.  Collectors of the day were, mostly, able to find them.  But, within a few months, Horrorshow began to appreciate a bit on the secondary market.  This was a pre-cursor to what was going to happen over the next 15 years.  Slowly, the Oktober Guard packs increased in value.  Horrorshow would spike and then come back down a bit.  But, it was a slow progression to where, in 2021, he's more than a $100 figure.  Which, frankly, is insane.  But, modern collectors aren't keen on the actual availability of the figure at the time of his release and mistake current market scarcity for real rarity.  You see it with a lot of the 2000's era Joe releases as well as Funskool and even some Plastirama stuff.  The market, though, should be correcting soon.

Stalker got a lot of re-issues in the repaint era.  The best, though, is the 1997 figure.  And, it's really not even close.  The Vietnam figure is next in line.  It's the best use of this new head.  This 2005 figure and the 2004 figure upon which he's based just don't stack up.  They offer nothing that you can't get in a different figure that was done better.  The green on this 2005 version is nice.  But, it was so close on the heels of the 2004 version that it seemed overdone the second it hit the shelves.  The painted details are pretty strong, though.  If you can forgive the yellow boots, his knife and grenade are painted silver.  But, the grenade has a black handle.  It's an unnecessary detail that gives the figure more depth than a single colored weapon would have.  The red collar is similar.  It's not essential.  But, because it's there, this Stalker isn't as monochromatic in appearance as the 1983 original.

This Stalker holds but one memory.  Around 2013, my parents moved out of the home in which I grew up.  They had owned the house for over 40 years.  So, there was a ton of crap to remove.  I hoped I'd find an old Joe figure or two and snap a couple of last pictures in the backyard.  But, none showed up.  So, I set out upon a quest to hit up a couple of local flea markets I remembered from the old days.  I struck out at the first couple.  But, the last, and largest provided a single score.  Here, I found a bag that included a bunch of military dollar store junk figures along with mint copies of Horrorshow, Stormavik and this Stalker.  The price?  $1.  So, I snatched them up and took them back to get a final pic of them in the yard.  Sadly, the pics really didn't turn out.  So, I've never posted them.  But, that's the only memory this Stalker holds for me.  (Oh, and the cheap, generic figures in the bag?  They are now at my mother's new house where my nieces and nephews still play with them.)

The Comic Packs all had bad gear: at least until they switched over the DTC.  But, at retail, the packs just featured a hodge-podge of weapons that sometimes might make a bit of sense but otherwise were just crap that Hasbro could cheaply pump into production.  This Stalker did include the newly sculpted M-16 that had debuted a year earlier.  While not a great weapon for Stalker, it was always nice to get another version of this weapon.  He then also included a remake of the 1990 Ambush's rifle.  It's not a bad weapon.  But, outside of Ambush, I see it as a Cobra weapon.  (I got a version of it with my 1994 Flint and gave it to a 1994 Viper back in 1995 or 1996.)  Despite having Stalker's M-32 mold in 1997, Hasbro never released it with another Stalker figure after that.  This was a shame as I still associate that weapon with Stalker and he looks off with any other guns.

These days, this Stalker will sell for $30.  That's stupidly high.  The figure isn't that good.  And, this is the type of figure that will fall precipitously when the market corrects.  Carded versions, though, will cost nearly $200.  But, almost all of that value is in the Horrorshow figure with the remainder in Stormavik.  If you're going to drop serious money on a Comic Pack Stalker, buy the Vietnam version.  It's more expensive, but a substantially better figure.  The 2004 figure that uses the same mold can be purchased for about 1/5 the price of the darker green version, too. So, there's still a cheap option to get the head if it's something you want.  For me, this is an example of the folly of new collectors.  There's enough of these figures out there and not too many people really like it.  But, it appears "rare" to those who are new to the hobby and you see prices that far outweigh the figure's demand.  It makes this an easy figure to skip.

2005 Comic Pack Stalker, 1984 Thunder, 1985 Bomb Disposal

2005 Comic Pack Stalker, 2018 Outlaw, Kickstart, Red Laser Army

2005 Comic Pack Stalker, 2002 BJ's Gift Set Dial Tone

2005 Comic Pack Stalker

Saturday, August 7, 2021

1994 Shadow Ninja Snake Eyes - Around The Web

I had to dig deep on this one.  Few people ever showcase the Shadow Ninjas.  Their alternate construction makes them tough to pose.  So, they aren't overly conducive to dioramas and photos.  But, I was able to find a decent amount of content on this figure out there.  You can see the figure in his various stages of color transformation, too.  I still say this Snake Eyes mold has the best head of any Snake Eyes figure.  It's just too difficult to use in customs.  But, the overall design is strong and would have been an amazing figure in standard Joe construction.

Shadow Ninja Snake Eyes Profile

Clear Ninja Force Prototypes

Shadow Ninja Snake Eyes by Slipstream80

Shadow Ninja Snake Eyes by HCC788

Shadow Ninja Snake Eyes by DragonFortress

Shadow Ninja Snake Eyes by Attica Gazette

Shadow Ninja Snake Eyes by toydujour

Shadow Ninja Snake Eyes by slipstream80

Shadow Ninja Snake Eyes by kushviper

1994 Shadow Ninja Snake Eyes, Joseph Colton, Mail Away, Action Soldier, Star Brigade Duke

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

2021 RIOT Commando (Eagle Force)

I have no memories of Eagle Force.  In fact, the only thing I really know about them was that the immortal Evilface liked them and had some on his page more than two decades ago.  But, out of scale figures with a weird gimmick weren't something that held my interest and I didn't give Eagle Force a thought for a long time.  Then, a kickstarter appeared that would bring Eagle Force figures in an anniversary G.I. Joe style to collectors.  After long delays, the kickstarter delivered.  At some point in the past year, though, the manufacturer of the Eagle Force figures, Zica Toys, also announced an o-ring figure from Eagle Force that could be integrated with vintage Joes.  The concept looked good enough.  But, many have tried to emulate vintage Joe figures.  And, even Hasbro failed in the early 2000's to really get new parts that meshed with vintage Joes.  So, my interest was tepid.  

When the first photos showed up, though, the figure had some promise.  But, with all the other things going on, it fell out of my mind.  Then, while reading OG13, I saw a post from my friend Ozzie about these Riot Commandos being available.  They looked OK.  But, more importantly, the figures were in stock on a website and I could buy them right then and there with no waiting.  So, in a total impulse buy, I acquired two of them.  I had no real expectations of the figure.  But, upon opening it a few days later, found quite a solid entry into the world of o-ring compatible figures.

The Riot Commando is perfectly in scale with vintage Joes.  He has a bit more heft like the post 1984 figures.  But, he looks like he could have been a Joe.  The body is covered in armor plates with some grenades on the upper left shoulder.  The waist features a belt with pouches and the legs have knee pads and a scuplted holster on the right thigh.  This doesn't sound like much.  But, it's actually the right amount.  The JvC Joes suffered from too much detail...much often with no purpose.  This Riot Commando has just enough details to make him cool but not so much that they detract from the look.  The paint is of excellent quality.  I'm not a huge fan of the Riot logo on the right shoulder.  But, it's so well done that I'll forgive it.  The figure is well put together and avoids some of the fan trappings of trying to make a figure too cool.

The figure has two little Easter egg features, too.  They are not something you notice right away.  But, they really add to the figure's overall appearance.  The first is that the figure's boots have treads sculpted onto the feet.  I don't recall seeing this anywhere before.  You might wonder who cares about the bottom of a figure's feet.  But, again, it's a little design flair that really showcases the care that went into sculpting this figure.  The second is more noticeable.  The red paint on the figure's eyes has a metallic tint to it.  You don't notice it until the eyes catch some light.  Then, they start to glow.  It's an amazing little detail that brings substantial life to the figure's head.  The glowing eyes stand out from the rest of the red on the figure and add an element of creepiness to the figure's countenance.  

Construction-wise, the Riot Commando has a few key differences from classic Joes.  First off, Zica did not use metal rivets in the elbow joints.  While the official line is that this will prevent cracked elbows, the more likely reason is cost.  And, the arms are relatively soft plastic.  So, the metal rivets might have not been practical.  I've never gotten too hung up on cracked elbows.  But, as 1993 Joes start to feature them, they bother me more and more.  But, in 27 years from now, I probably won't even be able to see them.  The figure's head is different, too.  While it has a ball joint similar to post 1984 Joes, that joint is attached to a post.  The figure's head then attached to a ball on top of the post.  It's a more common design and has been used in Star Wars and the anniversary Joe line.  It is usually excellent on helmeted characters.  But, I find it very limiting on standard human heads.  The final difference is that the figure has swivel wrists.  This isn't something I find of huge value on vintage figures.  As I live in a hot climate, you often see the wrist plastic fuse to the arm plastic, rending the swivel moot.  But, it's a nice additional feature and you can't see the joints due to the gloved hands.  Some have reported that the joints and such are not 100% with vintage Joe parts.  But, there are lots of Joes that aren't compatible with each other.  And, in this market, even custom fodder is stupidly expensive.  But, it will be interesting to see what creations can be made from the Riot Commando's parts.

The Riot Commando includes a single accessory: a rifle.  It's a pretty solid, if unspectacular design.  It won't be confused for a vintage Joe weapon.  But, it fits nicely with accessories from the 2000's and on.  The weapons are properly sized and match the figure very well, though.  And, with the figure's bulk, having a backpack would have been overkill.  (Though, vintage Joe backpacks do fit into the hole on the back of the figure.)  Maybe a satchel or pistol to round out the gear would have been nice.  But, a proper weapon that matches the figure like this one does can allow you to overlook the dearth of accessories.  You can already find amazingly posed photos of the Riot Commandos with their weapons.  So, that's a testament to how well it accentuates the figure.

So, what do you do with a figure like this?  Well, the upside is that the Riot Commando's colors match some vintage Cobras.  He's an excellent match for the Strato Viper.  And, Red Laser made some Viper repaints in a similar color scheme.  The figure also matches the Brazilian Flying Scorpion figure.  Escorpiao Voador's grey is a little lighter, as his red.  But, it's close enough.  Black Major is also currently selling Worms, Aero Vipers and Cobra Commanders in a grey and red.  Again, the Black Major colors are slightly brighter.  But, they work well enough.  You'll see my Riot Commandos with the Flying Scorpion below.  And, it's likely that they will become his personal troopers since they both match the color and also don't match any other Cobra Trooper designs.

Zica Toys has shown other o-ring prototype designs.  I do not know when or if these will come to be.  But, based on my experience with the Riot Commando, I'm likely to give them a try.  A couple are helmetless people.  And, those can be tougher to do versus a helmeted head.  But, any expansion of the o-ring mythos with high quality toys is useful.  And, while it's unlikely that I'll "collect" the line in a traditional sense.  Figures that easily mesh with Joes will always find a place among my hoard.  

When designing an action figure, it's far easier to try too hard than it is to get something just right.  We all know design elements that we want in every toy.  The key, though, is to not incorporate too many of them into a single offering.  Otherwise, you waste a design element that gets lost in a sea of overdone details.  And, the Riot Commando has a perfect example with the figure's head.  Yes, it's nice enough.  But, they really tried too hard.  And, instead of a clean aesthetic to match the rest of the figure, you have an overly large monstrosity that is part Darth Vader, part Stranger from the Venture Brothers and part Steampunk sewer dweller.  In short, it's too much.  I suspect that when you're not sure you'll get a chance to make more figures, you push as much into what you are sure of as you can.  But, in this case, removing just one element would make the head cleaner.  Instead, it's overdone and somewhat distracting from the more muted body.  I'd like to see an alternate head offered in the future.  But, that should be a new figure and not an add on.  

I'm not a Kickstarter fan.  I just want to be able to buy a product for a pre-arranged price.  I don't want to sort through tiers and options to find some package that kind of gets me what I want and then leaves me to wait years before the figures are delivered.  I want to buy something in hand that can be shipped today.  Yes, I'm a dinosaur in that regard.  (And, the Coil Con fiasco has left me leery of pre-paying for anything from indie producers.)  But, if Kickstarter people were more flexible in their offerings and pricing some would be more attractive.  The reason I own this figure is because I went to a website, entered my info and, five days later, the figures were in my mailbox.  Simple.  I could get exactly what I want instead of having to try and justify a bunch of figures that I otherwise had no interest in.

Who knows what the future holds for this figure.  It likely exists in relatively small numbers, certainly when compared against vintage Joes.  And, we've seen low run figures take on extraordinary after market lives, too.  The upside to this figure is that it's full of repaint potential.  A Cobra blue and black figure would be strong.  As would a crimson base with silver pads.  The mold would lend itself to Iron Grenadier colors of a black base with gold highlights.  Or, my preferred way, a golden figure with black and red highlights.  Personally, I'd love a green and orange toxic repaint that's completely and totally ostentatious.  But, I'm weird like that.  It's likely we'll see this figure again in some other configuration.  And, based on the quality of this release, it's equally likely that I'll buy some.

2021 Eagle Force Riot Commando, Zica Toys, 2005 Sgt. Misha, Comic Pack, Oktober Guard

2021 Eagle Force Riot Commando, Zica Toys, 2005 Sgt. Misha, Comic Pack, Oktober Guard, Action Force, Steel Brigade, Z Force, Red Laser Army

2021 Zica Toys, Eagle Force, Riot Commando, Shadowtrak, Red Shadows, Palitoy, Action Force, European Exclusive, Escorpiao Voador, Cobra Flying Scorpion, Brazil, Estrela

2021 Zica Toys, Eagle Force, Riot Commando, Shadowtrak, Red Shadows, Palitoy, Action Force, European Exclusive, Escorpiao Voador, Cobra Flying Scorpion, Brazil, Estrela

2021 Zica Toys, Eagle Force, Riot Commando